2019 has been a much better year for volunteer recruitment. It has also been good for fund-raising, thanks to the generosity of our friends who responded generously to our playground appeal. Find out what we’ve been up to this year!
My indefatigable and estimable colleague, Barbara Porter, who runs our volunteer programme, and doubles up as our teacher trainer, has just returned to the UK from an arduous five week visit to the Himalayas, including Ladakh, Nepal and Uttarakhand. I say ‘arduous’ not just because she had so much to cram in, but also because travelling around the Himalayas by road is very time-consuming, uncomfortable and even dangerous. She has painted a vivid word picture of one of her trips:
“The journey back was another epic. 12 hours this time!! It did include another wrong turning….. but that mistake only cost us 30km/one hour… the traffic was most of the problem. It was the eve of a big Sikh festival and by traffic you will well know that I don’t just mean cars… but motorbikes and scooters loaded with improbable numbers of family members, or milk churns or grass, buffalo carts, mule carts. Tractors pulling long trailers, again loaded with improbably large numbers of family members, goods and chattels heading off to party, trucks and more tractors and trailers unbelievably overloaded with towering, swaying loads of sugar cane trailing lines of snagged power cables behind them, bicycles, auto rickshaws, meandering random dogs, cows and people, all of this weaving in and out of each other with a cacophony of shrieking strident horns… and the road an absolute patchwork of horrendous holes and ditches. Shailender did a sterling job driving through all this but we were pretty knackered when we finally crawled into Dehradun!”
I met up with her in Nepal where we were able to meet the director of the Belgian NGO, Himalayan Projects in Pokhara, to discuss next year’s volunteer programme in Western Nepal. This may include the placement of medical volunteers with a travelling clinic.
And we were lucky enough to catch Janet Ingle, our latest recruit, just before she set off to start her assignment at the Shree Kalika Deurali Secondary school in a remote area south of Pokhara. Here she is with Barbara.
Barbara adds value to her visits by running teacher training sessions during her visits aimed at introducing local teachers to new methodologies to try out. (More details below.)
|What have we achieved this year with your help?|
Barbara Porter participated in teacher training seminars in Ladakh and Uttarakhand this October. One seminar for a few teachers has the power to improve the English language skills of thousands of pupils. In addition to Barbara’s professional services, HELP donated £1511 to its local partner, the Serve and Share Association (SASA) to cover the hire of the venue and the expenses of the participating teachers. Read more here.
Women’s Empowerment Centre (Damak, Eastern Nepal)
HELP donated £550 to the WEC to cover the costs of an advanced sewing training course for some of the women in their care. The aim was to give them a skill that will help them make a living for themselves and their children.
Vidya Sagar Gyanpeeth primary school (West Sikkim)
We have supported this small village school for the past 15 years, and this includes the construction and annual maintenance of the current school building. This year, to comply with more stringent Ministry of Education requirements, the school needed to extend their playground which is currently only big enough to hold morning assembly. With your generous help we raised £3200, and sent a total of £3780, enough, we hope, to get the job done. The photos show progress so far.
We were relieved that we had a larger number of suitable applicants for our teacher volunteer programme this year, and were able to place seven volunteers. As always they came from many different countries, from Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United States and India.
Our volunteers go to many different schools but all are in remote areas, as one of the aims of the volunteer programme is to support struggling rural communities and to try and help slow down the drain of people migrating from villages to already overcrowded cities, a problem in so many countries these days.
|Past volunteers often revisit the schools where they volunteered. This year Marco Saaltink was in a remote school in Nepal for the fourth time, and a former volunteer from the Netherlands, Bart Jan Hermans is back visiting his school in Sikkim this autumn. We appreciate their keeping in touch even though they no longer need our support. Often, we are able to call on their services to help us.|
And here is Paul Lessner who has volunteered with HELP three times, twice in Ladakh and once in Sikkim. He has been a great asset. This year he was back in Ladakh for the second time teaching at the Lamdon school in Shey, our first volunteer at that school
“Out of my three volunteer experiences, this was the best one. One reason for this is that I was prepared for what it is like to teach in a Ladakhi school. A second reason was the wonderful community I experienced at my home stay.”
Kathleen Cressly taught at the Gyan Jyoti primary school in Kalimpong.
“I have felt supported and encouraged from the start, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity through HELP. ”
Jeremy Leafloor taught at St. Paul’s school in Namthang, South Sikkim.
“My experience was great, I do not regret doing it whatsoever. I highly recommend trying it for those considering it.”
Veeda Huang taught at the small Sri Krishna school in Changu Narayan, an attractive hill-top village on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley.
“What drew me to HELP initially is HELP’s commitment to aid the schools”
Brinda Poornapragna, from India, was our first volunteer at an Ashram school in Uttarakhand.
“I volunteered to teach English in the months of April and May 2019. It was a sheer delight to live in the pristine region and to be amongst the wonderful children, who were keen to learn English.”
We also placed a doctor, Jonathan Tye, at a clinic in the small of Chitre which the Annapurna Circuit trek passes through. Because of a loss of population in the village and surrounds, there was insufficient work for him there, so he transferred to a busier clinic in nearby Tato Pani.
HELP isn’t an introduction agency, but sometimes unwittingly acts as one! Earlier this year, my wife, Yami, and I were invited to a church service where Kerrie Anne Sullivan, an ex-HELP volunteer, and Ashim, whom she met in the village of Changu Narayan, reconfirmed the vows they made at a Hindu ceremony in Nepal last year. More details in our blog.
Barbara and I met them again with baby, Sid, at her mother-in-law’s home in the village this October. Here we are, with Ramesh Kadhka (right) our representative in Kathmandu.
Our sponsorship programme is a direct way to support money-strapped families by allowing them to send their children to small private schools that can provide their children with the English-medium education they need to succeed at the secondary level. Not all sponsored children go on to academic success and high-flying careers, because in the interests of equity we do not shortlist on the basis of academic ability.
In the photo above, at the SASA Academy in Uttarakhand, Barbara met the children sponsored by HELP, and by ex-HELP volunteers Les and Anna Johns and their friends.
Three young women we sponsor in far off Damak in the south-east of Nepal spent a gruelling 9 hours in a bus to meet me in Kathmandu. Two of them are seriously disabled and yet were determined to undergo the journey to meet me. I was able to hand over their sponsorship money personally.
- difficult to manage, so we are allowing the programme to run down to a more manageable size by reducing new sponsorship intakes for the time being. Currently we have 32 sponsors sponsoring 39 young persons.
- long-term in nature, and require staying power on the part of the sponsor. Many thanks to all our sponsors for staying the course for so many years for very little in return. If you feel you are not getting as much information as you would like or expect, please let Ben Coleman know and he will do his best to get some news for you.
These days, many of the youngsters are on Facebook and use Messenger to communicate, and Ben will give you the links as he gets them so that you have the chance to establish direct contact with your sponsees, if you so wish. This makes communications so much easier for both sides, although lack of a common language will limit the scope of such communications in some cases!
|My special thanks to Norong Namchyo, Rabin Acharya, Shailender David, Rajib and Radhika Thapa, Kiran Chettri and Ghana Koirala for helping with the difficult task of running the sponsorship programme on the ground.|
We continue to rely mainly on volunteer fees to fund our programme, and of course donations our friends send our way from time to time.
And let’s not forget the taxman who has sent us £1052 under the Inland Revenue’s Gift Aid scheme! Gift Aid is an invaluable boost to our income, but we do need your permission from the donor to apply for it, even if we know you are a UK-based tax payer!
Here are some of the ways you can help us raise more money, without which we can do nothing:
This year I was raising money for a playground at the Vidya Sagar Gyanpeeth school in Sikkim, and many of you chose to sponsor me on the Nepal trek I did with Barbara and others this October. We got to over 14,000 feet, and I for one struggle at that altitude, but you will be glad to learn that I made it! Here I am with Barbara (who coped rather better!).
If you are planning to do something that you find challenging, then please don’t miss the opportunity to invite friends to sponsor you through our Wonderful.org fundraising page.
British friends who are not into challenges, can raise money for HELP without any effort at all! Easyfundraising is proving to be a valuable way of raising money by internet shopping. A gallant eight friends (including me!) have raised £599 since December 2017. That’s a good sum and the official HELP ‘Hey big spender!’ accolade has to go to Rebecca O’Brien. Where do you shop Rebecca? Harrods?!).
In spite of this, the number of Easyfundraising friends hasn’t changed since last year’s newsletter! Eight is a very small number out of all our contacts. Do please consider doing your online Christmas shopping via Easyfundraising! You can also book your holidays and flights this way. It’s an easy and painless way to raise money for HELP.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
HELP has an active Facebook page. This is an easy way for you to check up on what we are doing throughout the year, and to share thoughts with other friends of HELP. Do please befriend HELP and help to raise our profile!
The HELP blog
For more in-depth information visit our blog, where you can find all our volunteer testimonials, and reports on our inspection visits, as well as geo-political news affecting our work.
Well, that’s it for this year. Many thanks for all your support and good wishes.
Merry Christmas to all of you, and a happy new year!